Leviticus 19:1,2, 15Ã¢â‚¬"18
Leviticus 19:1,2, 15-18
Scope, Selection and Content of Pericope
Leviticus 19:1,2, 15-18 is the Old Testament pericope appointed for 23 Pentecost A in the LBW. Verses 15-18 are a thematically related set of laws regarding relationships with "neighbors". The pericope is in-complete without the introductory statement of 1,2, because the laws in this chapter are all expansion and commentary on v 2. The appro-pri-ate pericope is Lev 19:1,2, 15-18.
Leviticus as a whole is P material. Leviticus 17-26, the Holiness Code, is the remains of a pre-existing book brought into the P narra-tive. The theological center of this source is the meaning of "holiness" within Israel. Within the Holiness Code are signs of a com-plex prior tradition history.
According to Cozelle's categories, the laws in the pericope are apo-dictic prohibitions with one concluding positive commandment. Such laws are Israelite in origin, not borrowings from other cultures. In form, these are absolute demands from God addressed to each single member of the community.
Summary of Content
Chapter 19, a new unit within the Holiness Code, is unrelated to the context, Lev 17, the centralization of sacrifice, and Lev 18, sexual purity.
God speaks to Moses and commands him to transmit God's words (which follow) to the people. "You will be holy, because I am holy; Yahweh is your God."
(The pericope is interrupted by verses 3-14.)
"Make your judgments with justice--do not favor either the rich or the poor. Do not slander your people or profit from the death of your neighbor. Do not hate anyone in your community. Give correction to your neighbor when your neighbor's sins. If you do not correct your neighbor you will be guilty of what your neighbor does. Do not try to 'get back' at your neighbor. Do not keep your neighbor's offenses against you in your mind. Love your neighbor instead, the same way you love yourself. You are to do these things because I am Yahweh."
The second part of the chapter gives loosely-related laws. In v 34 is the command to love the resident alien as one's self.
The primary meaning of the verb, wd-q= is "to set apart", the adjec-tive wodq=, kadosh, indicates the quality that comes from that set-apart-ness.
Kodesh is a quality of God, people, things, and time. It can be present in greater or lesser degree. It is contagious by . Kodesh can be decreased, damaged or destroyed by specific actions and by with the profane. Kodesh is manifested by the set-apart character of the holy thing, person, or time; kodesh is main-tained only by restriction.
You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
The Hebrew is ambiguous. The verb is the Qal imperfect second person masculine plural of hy_h=, "be". This construction is often used of commands (e.g. Ex 20:14-17 and Lev 19:15) but, unlike the ab-so-lute infinitive, it is not restricted to commands. The second half of the verse is appositive and the translator must insert forms of "be". Literal translation is "Kadosh you will be/you are being/you shall be/be, because kadosh (am) I, Yahweh (is) your God".
One sense of the passage is that because Yahweh is their God, and Yahweh is kadosh, then the people also will be kadosh. Their kodesh derives from their relationship with Yahweh, not from their actions.
The second sense is that because Yahweh is their God, and Yahweh is kadosh, the people are commanded to also be kadosh in order to main-tain their relationship with Yahweh. Their kodesh derives from their actions (their obedience to the commands which follow) and their re-la-tionship with Yahweh is derived or maintained by their kodesh.
Both of these senses are present in the text; the ambiguity can be represented in English with the word "will": "You will be kadosh."
I am the LORD
This statement divides commands within the chapter. It is not merely a rhetorical device, but points back to the introduction, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy."
Two words translated "neighbor" are used synonymously in the peri-cope. "Neighbor" in vv 15,16, and 18 is i-r2 "friend, companion, fel-low" from the root for "to associate with" (cf. Gen 38:12,20, Mi 7:5). Verse 16 and 18 K(m<3i- [email protected]<4 "sons of your peo-ple", implying a tribal or national relationship, is parallel to i-r2. In v 17 the rare word tym1i3 "associate, fellow, relation" is parallel to "brother". The idea of association makes the concept less restrictive than descent and places greater emphasis on the neighbor as a member of the same community. As it was necessary to re-state v 18 in v 33 to apply to the resident alien, it is clear that the resident alien is not included in v 18; even less is the term to be applied to any human being.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself
The verb form for "love" in 18 is second person singular. The verse is thus addressed to the individual, not to the community. The English "love" closely represents the range of the Hebrew.
The preceding context indicates that this command is not merely to hold a loving emotional attitude towards other members of the commu-nity. Rather, that love is to be shown or actualized in specific ways listed in 15-18.
A "punch line" can be derived from the introductory statement and the concluding summary.
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord" (18) sum-marizes and climaxes 15-18. To love the neighbor is active. One must render just judgment, refraining from slander, not profit by the neighbor's death, not hate or take vengeance or bear a grudge, and must correct the neighbor. "I am the Lord" points back to the reason for this command: "You shall be kadosh, for I the Lord your God am ka-dosh." This command is the organizing principle for all the other com-mandments of the chapter, indeed for the entire holiness code.
The thematic statement, or "punch line" is best stated as "You will be kadosh, for I am kadosh--love your neighbor as yourself!"
The Sixth Century Message
The identity of the exiles was entirely dependent on their distinc-tion from the Babylonian community. If they were no longer separate, that is no longer kadosh, they ceased to exist as a people. The text instructed them both that their relationship with Yahweh made them ka-dosh and commanded them to maintain that kodesh, in part, through love of the neighbor--the fellow exile. The specific ways in which they were to love the neighbor all contributed to the solidarity and iden-tity of the community.
Twentieth Century Message
This text directs each of us to be kadosh/holy/separate/set apart for use because that is part of the nature of a relationship with God. It also assures us that the relationship itself makes us ka-dosh/holy/separate/set apart for use. One of the ways in which we are to be kadosh is to love the members of our communities in our daily lives. This love is a personal responsibility. It is not a passive in-ward-directed emotion but an outward-directed attitude which prevents us from slandering or hating them or profiting from their misfortune and impels us to help them maintain their own kodesh. Because we are to be kadosh, we must love our neighbors as ourselves.
Anderson, Bernhard W., "Leviticus" in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, New Revised Standard Version, Metzger, editors Bruce M, and Roland E. Murphy, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994
Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament, An Introduction, New York: Paulist Press, 1984
Bright, John, A History of Israel, third edition, Philadelphia: Westminster Press 1973
Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown--Driver--Briggs--Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, with an ap-pendix containing the Biblical Aramaic, annotated by Jay P. Green Sr, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979
Greengus, Samuel, "Law--Biblical and ANE Law" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, IV 242-252
Kohlenberger, John R. III, editor, The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, Volume 1, Genesis-Deuteronomy, Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation 1979
Levine, Baruch A., "Leviticus, Book of" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, IV 311-321
Luther, Martin, translator, Die Bibel oder die ganze Heilige Schrift des Alten und Neuen Testaments, nach der deutschen ubersetzung Martin Luthers, Stuttgard: Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt, 1964.
McCurley, Foster R., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Proclamation Commentaries, The Old Testament Witnesses for Preaching, Foster R. McCurley, Editor, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1979
Noth, Martin, Leviticus, A Commentary, translator J. E. Anderson, The Old Testament Library, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1977
Owens, John Joseph, The Analytical Key to the Old Testament, volume 1, Genesis-Joshua, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990,
Peter-Contesse, Rene and John Ellington, A Translator's handbook on Leviticus, New York: United Bible Societies, 1990
Sakenfeld, Katherine, "Love (OT)" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed-i-tors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, IV 375-381
Sansino, Rifat, "Law--Forms of Biblical Law" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, IV 252-4
Stuart, Douglas, "Exegesis" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, II 682-688
Sun, Henry T. C., "Holiness Code" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed-i-tors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, III 254-7
Wigram, George V, The New Englishman's Hebrew Concordance, revised by Jay P. Green Sr, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984
Wright, David P., "Holiness (OT)" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed-i-tors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, New York: Doubleday, 1992, III 236-249
____, Biblia. Det ar all den heliga skrift after den uppa konnung Carl den Tolftes Befallning, Introduction by Martin Luther, edition of 1703, Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1874
____, La Santa Biblia, Antiguo y Nuevo Testamentos, Antigua version de Casiodoro de Reina (1569), revisada por Cipriano de Valera (1602) y cotejada posteriormente con diversas traducciones, y con los textos Hebreo y Griego, London: Sociedad Biblica Trinitaria, date not given
Leviticus 19:1,2 begins a new unit, independent of its preceding context, within the Holiness Code. Verse 37, a demand for observance of the commands, ends the unit. Verse 19, an introduction parallel to v 37 divides the unit. The formula "I am the Lord" creates sub-units. Verses 3, 4, 11-13 loosely parallel the decalogue, of universal scope, not concerned directly with the neighbor. Verses 5-8 are a modified repetition of 7:15-18 topically unrelated to chapter 19. Verses 9 and 10 are repeated with an expansion in 23:22, therefore likely to be an intrusion. Although v 13 refers to the neighbor, the remainder of the verse and v 14, to which it is connected by the formula "I am the Lord", represents duties more specific than to the neighbor.
Martin Noth sees little order in the arrangement of the material, "In detail, however, the different departments of life are arranged very much at random.Ã¢â‚¬Â¦It is indeed possi-ble that there lies concealed an apodeictic 'decalogue'Ã¢â‚¬Â¦but no one has so far succeeded in recon-structing this basic decalogue or do-decalogue." Martin Noth, Leviticus, A Commentary, translator J. E. Anderson, The Old Testament Library, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1977) 138-9.
Henry T. C. Sun, "Holiness Code" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, (New York: Doubleday, 1992) III 254-7
See Noth's discussion, Leviticus, 14-5, compare Sun, "Holiness Code".
Rifat Sansino, "Law--Forms of Biblical Law" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, (New York: Doubleday, 1992) IV 253
Prohibition in the second person singular. Analysis by Alt, discussed by Sansino, ibid.
Not to the community as a corporate entity. Each individual is to do/not do these things.
Commandments to honoring parents, observe Sabbath, and eschew idolatry. Unrelated re-quire-ments to finish eating well-being sacrifices within two days and to leave gleanings at har-vest follow. Stealing, including dishonest trade is forbidden as is lying, swearing falsely with the name of God, and harming the blind or deaf through their disability.
Literally "Do not stand against/abide/stand on the blood of your neighbor." This is id-iomatic. Extensive discussion of this statement is beside the point here, the NRSV interpre-tation is accepted for the purposes of this paper.
Mixtures, adultery with a slave, fruit from new trees, shaving, tattooing, prostitution, Sabbath, mediums, the respect due to the aged, and the maintenance of honest weights and bal-ances.
The connotations of "holy" interfere with understanding the meaning of kadosh in the text. Accordingly, kadosh will be used in this paper rather than "holy".
The noun form corresponding to kadosh.
"The expression leaves it undecided whether the 'holiness' of the Israelites is a statement or a demand: 'you are holy' or 'you are to be holy'." Noth, Leviticus, 139-40.
"2. In a weaker sense, fellow, fellow-citizen, even another person with whom one stands in reciprocal relations." BDB 946.
It occurs only in Zac 13:7, Lev 5:21, 19:11, and 24:19.
"A community whose members refer to each other as 'amit (cf. Zac 13:7 where 'amit is par-allel to re'a) is not one defined by kinship and ancestry. It is rather a community composed of citizens in our modern terminology." Baruch A. Levine, "Leviticus, Book of" in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, editors David Noel Friedman, et al, 6 volumes, (New York: Doubleday, 1992) IV 319
"Affection, both pure and impure, divine and human." BDB, 12.
Both elements make a complete thematic statement. Without "love your neighborÃ¢â‚¬Â¦" there is no clue as to how to be holy, but without the command to be holy there is no explicit reason to love the neighbor.
The purpose of "reprove your neighbor" as the effect of sin is to damage the relationship with God, hence damage to kodesh.
Related Essays on Theology